In 2018, the Premier of the Cayman Islands, Alden McLaughlin, announced the creation of a Fair Employment Opportunities Commission (FEOC) aimed at addressing complaints about discrimination against Caymanian job seekers or Caymanians applying for promotions. The bill to create this commission will be placed before the Legislative Assembly this year.
In the premier’s statement, he referred to growing resentment and complaints by Caymanians as being “legion.” He had received numerous reports of workplace discrimination of Caymanians. The FEOC will be headed by a commissioner who will be appointed by the governor of the Cayman Islands in a manner similar to the appointment of the auditor general and ombudsman. The preferred choice of commissioner would be an experienced attorney or retired judge. He or she will be supported by a staff of individuals with legal and investigative skills.
The announcement of the creation of the FEOC caused a stir when it was announced, but there was some disappointment when it was reported in September 2018 that the FEOC remained in the draft stage. Subsequently, in November 2018, it was reported that the bill would not reach the Legislative Assembly until sometime in 2019.
The rapid growth of the Cayman Islands economy has created a demand, which cannot be satisfied locally, for talented, well-qualified personnel. The Cayman Islands Immigration Department has been under pressure to process and grant work permits for a growing number of expat workers who are needed to continue to expand the economy. This supply and demand problem has led to inequalities in the labor market, with many Caymanians feeling they have been excluded from earning a living in their own homeland. If left to fester, this resentment could foment serious problems within the Cayman Islands society. It is out of these concerns that the FEOC has been advanced as a solution to the problem.
Whilst the concept of fairness to Caymanian workers in both jobs and promotion is laudable, it remains to be seen how the commission will operate in practice. The government has recognized the importance of attracting well-qualified workers, but also understands the need to ensure that Caymanians are treated fairly in the job market and that they have an avenue to air their grievances. There is a balance to be struck between promoting a settled business climate in a leading offshore financial jurisdiction, on the one hand, with preventing resentment amongst the Caymanian workforce on the other hand. Failure to achieve such a balance could result in business leaving the Cayman Islands. It will be interesting to assess the bill once it has been made public to see whether and how the balance has been maintained.
Written by Philip S. Boni of Higgs and Johnson and Roger James of Ogletree Deakins
© 2018 Higgs and Johnson and Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak and Stewart, P.C.